New York, Aug.8 (ANI): While a high-profile battle rages over a mosque near Ground Zero in Manhattan, heated confrontations have also broken out in communities across the United States where mosques are proposed for far less hallowed locations.
In Murfreesboro, Tennessee, arguments broke out over a planned Muslim center. Republican candidates have denounced plans for the proposed center that is coming up near a subdivision.
Hundreds of protesters have turned out for a march and a county meeting.
In late June, in Temecula, California, members of a local Tea Party group took dogs and picket signs to Friday prayers at a mosque that is seeking to build a new worship center on a vacant lot nearby.
In Sheboygan, Wisconsin, a few Christian ministers led a noisy fight against a Muslim group that sought permission to open a mosque in a former health food store bought by a Muslim doctor.
In all of the recent conflicts, opponents have said their problem is Islam itself.
They quote passages from the Koran and argue that even the most Americanized Muslim secretly wants to replace the Constitution with Islamic Shariah law.
These local skirmishes make clear that there is now widespread debate about whether the best way to uphold America's democratic values is to allow Muslims the same religious freedom enjoyed by other Americans, or to pull away the welcome mat from a faith seen as a singular threat.
"What's different is the heat, the volume, the level of hostility," said Ihsan Bagby, associate professor of Islamic studies at the University of Kentucky.
He added: "It's one thing to oppose a mosque because traffic might increase, but it's different when you say these mosques are going to be nurturing terrorist bombers, that Islam is invading, that civilization is being undermined by Muslims."
Feeding the resistance is a growing cottage industry of authors and bloggers - some of them former Muslims - who are invited to speak at rallies, sell their books and testify in churches.
Their message is that Islam is inherently violent and incompatible with America.
There are about 1,900 mosques in the United States, which run the gamut from makeshift prayer rooms in storefronts and houses to large buildings with adjoining community centers, according to a preliminary survey.
Radicalization of alienated Muslim youths is a real threat.
Camie Ayash, a spokeswoman for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, lamented that people were listening to what she called "total disinformation" on Islam.
She said her group was stunned when what began as one person raising zoning questions about the new mosque evolved into mass protests with marchers waving signs about Shariah. (ANI)